Keith says 'Beer' movie set was all business

August 7, 2008 7:00:56 PM PDT
One could only imagine the pickin' party they could have thrown on the back lot of Toby Keith's new movie, "Beer for My Horses." Keith, Willie Nelson, Ted Nugent, Mel Tillis, David Allan Coe and Rodney Carrington are in the film, a comedy that the 47-year-old singer describes as a tip of the hat to Burt Reynolds' "Smokey and the Bandit" movies and television's "The Andy Griffith Show."

But it wasn't to be. "We didn't have time to pick up one guitar," he told The Associated Press recently. "It was 12-hour shoot days."

"Beer for My Horses," which Keith co-wrote with Carrington and also produced and starred in, opens Friday. Tom Skerritt, Barry Corbin, Gina Gershon and Claire Forlani also star.

The title comes from Keith's 2003 duet with Nelson, a salute to frontier justice that captures the spirit of the movie, in which Keith plays a small town deputy out to bust up a methamphetamine ring and rescue his girlfriend from a Mexican drug lord.

"It's an old Western saying," explains Keith, an Oklahoma native. "I used to work for a rodeo contractor who carried a pint of whiskey in his pocket. At the end of the night, he'd say, 'Whiskey for my men and beer for my horses.' That always stuck with me."

This is Keith's second film but the first he's written and produced. He played a fading country star opposite Kelly Preston in the 2006 drama "Broken Bridges."

After writing so many songs, he figured: Why not try a movie?

"It took 10 months to write. The beauty of the whole thing was watching it come to life," he said. "Tom Skerritt really liked it. He said whoever wrote it knows the South. He said people don't pay attention to the dialogue anymore."

As for his acting, well, Keith knows it's not as good as his singing, but he feels he's improving. It helps hanging out with veterans like Skerritt and Corbin.

"To be working across from them for several days was a thrill for me. I was thinking, 'If they were here writing a song with me and trying to sing and not very good at it, I'd be thinking that they have a long way to go.' I hope they don't feel that way about me, but I'm sure they do."